Notice anything different?
Probably not. Technically, there isn’t anything different about this website. How could there be? It didn’t even exist till a few days ago. Monday, 28 January 2013, to be exact.
So we could say the only real difference is that this site didn’t exist before, and now it does.
But what’s really new and different is the name of this site: GaryMatthews.com. That means a lot to me, because the name of my website is now my own name — Gary Matthews — with “dot-com” tacked on at the end, of course.
You may not see this as any big deal. After all, if you’re going to have your own website, don’t you name it after yourself? Especially if you’re a writer. So there are sites called JamesPatterson.com, NoraRoberts.com, DanBrown.com, MayaAngelou.com, and scores of others. Not too tough to figure out whose those are.
It’s easy to have a website. It doesn’t even cost much — a whole lot less than, say, phone service. But here’s the catch: What isn’t easy, when you’re getting a website, is to name it after yourself. Mostly that’s impossible.
The reason is that every website name must be unique. If someone puts up a site called Dishrag.com, then no one else can use that name. (I just made up this example; haven’t checked to see if it’s real. But surely no one…) If we could use duplicate names, then the Internet wouldn’t work. Just as the phone system wouldn’t work if anyone else had the same phone number as you.
So during the mid-Nineties or thereabouts, when the World Wide Web was young, there was a “gold rush” to claim all the best website names (aka “domain” names). Or perhaps we should say “land rush”, since domain names are rightly compared with real estate: Once you own a spot, it’s yours. You can sell a domain name like property; you can develop it; you can simply sit on it. (Well, as long as you pay the token annual fee — currently around $10 to $15 a year for dot-com names.)
Smart, prudent people with eyes on the future snapped up their own names in a flash, even if they didn’t need them right away. But millions of prime names were also reserved and registered by “domainers”: entrepreneurs who, by purchasing valuable names on the cheap, hoped later to resell them at a profit. These were cyber-prospectors, panning for digital gold. As in days of old, some went broke, others made millions.
Be that as it may, it was around 1997 when I first became interested in web design. So I checked, and learned that “GaryMatthews.com” wasn’t available: Someone already had registered the name.
Since there were two Major League baseball players named Gary Matthews, I figured that one or both of them had it. (They’re father and son.) Or one of the various musicians, or one of the other writers, or one of the lawyers or dentists or politicians named Gary Matthews: It’s a common enough name.
Or maybe the owner was a domainer planning to sell the name to one of us Gary Matthewses, as soon as one of us wanted it badly enough to pay the asking price.
I didn’t bother, because I’ve always written under the name “Gary L. Matthews”, emphasis on my middle initial. And when I recently learned that GaryLMatthews.com still was available, I registered it, and put up a website where I planned to talk about my books, my publishing company, web design, and whatnot.
That was last September. But the problem with “GaryLMatthews”, whether as a website name or a professional pen-name, is that that isn’t what my readers actually call me. They just call me “Gary Matthews”. No one normally uses any middle initial to distinguish me from the multiple other Gary Matthewses.
Heck, that’s what I call myself: I don’t recall ever introducing myself to anyone as “Gary L. Matthews”, even though that’s how I sign letters and checks.
I’ve also verified that when folks go looking for me, or for one of my books, on the Internet, the author-name they specify almost always is simply “Gary Matthews”. Even though I’ve never placed that no-initial version on anything I’ve ever written.
So for a long time now, I’ve wished I could own GaryMatthews.com as my domain name, with a website to match. After all, the person or company that did own it wasn’t using it. If anyone had, that person would have been getting not only his own web traffic, but some of mine as well. That’s just the way the web works.
Thunder struck Sunday morning, 27 January, when I received an email from the domain’s new owner, offering to sell me the name. The offer came from a Florida domainer and web designer who had acquired the name as part of a collection.
The asking price, to me, sounded daunting. But it also was a more-than-fair price, even a generous one, considering the domain’s value. At least to me, and probably to one or more of the other Gary Matthewses out there.
Probably could have gotten it cheaper by haggling. My own instincts — and certainly all the smart-money advice I’ve ever read — say never to pay the asking price.
But I only haggle when I’m prepared, if necessary, to walk away. This time I wasn’t. Plus, I knew that the same offer was going out to a bunch of other Gary Matthewses. There are hundreds of us. (No exaggeration!) I didn’t believe then, and don’t believe now, that at least one other wouldn’t have jumped at the chance.
So I jumped first, at the asking price, on 27 January. Next day — Monday, 28 January — there was a functioning website under my new web domain.
This one. With the name I’ve wanted for years. So stay tuned. The best is yet to be.
P.S.: Okay, I couldn’t resist peeking. Damned if there isn’t a website called Dishrag.com! Like they say, all the good names are already taken.